Friday, December 25, 2020


Concentric Circles

The ignorance of the grub.  The ignorance of the ant.  The ignorance of the blind new puppy.  The ignorance of the starling.  The ignorance of the lion.  The ignorance of the orangutan.

The ignorance of the Everyman.  The ignorance of Alan Turing and Ludwig Wittgenstein, of Madame Curie and of Madame Blavatsky.

We know nothing of the big picture.

Friday, December 11, 2020



Alan Turing, John Maynard Keynes, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Frank Ramsey, Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore, all occupying the same sacred ground between the Two Great Wars.

Thursday, December 10, 2020


Channeling the Inner Elvis

Is your heart filled with pain?

Shall I come back again?

Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

Monday, December 7, 2020


Overheard in the Box Seats

"Watch the old man with the rubber rapier try to defend himself, after the hyenas are released from their box.  It is an amusement that we have."  

And then, sotto voce - "The hyenas will act in concert until he is down."

Thursday, December 3, 2020


Leaving No Stone Unturned

Grave robbers severed the hands and the feet of the Christ.  Pickled them in brine, bound for reliquaries.  All in the service of the almighty drachma.

And they did this on the sabbath, no less.  The day before He rose.  

He rose whole and complete, which only added to the mystery.  A shadow body, greater than the first.

We all have them, waiting in reserve.  All, that is, except that God the Father, the Vengeful One, erased the souls of the two robbers, leaving them to roam the earth like abandoned dogs.

Saturday, November 28, 2020


Erwin McDonall Told Me This Tale

That he hasn't hit anyone since the fourth grade.  But towards the end of their marriage, he got so angry at his wife that he opened the hutch in the dining room, took out her grandmother's porcelain serving tray (the big one, the one you could put a turkey on), and smashed it to bits on the floor.

He had to do this, he said, to demonstrate to her how rotten he felt, in general.

The passionate moment passed, but these many years later the feeling of deepest regret still has not.


A Thought That Continually Haunts Me

Is that it is nearly finished, and therefore I need to put a bow around it.  But the very act of putting a bow around it causes it to ossify and later to collapse.  And the collapse carries with it an undermining of the meaning that has undergirded my life.

I can't find a way out of this conundrum.  I feel as if I am trying to box my way out of a wet paper bag.  Futility sets in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


6 X 3

Eighteen of us strained at the capstan.  The ship slowly crept forward until the chain was straight vertical.  Or rather I should say 17.  Jacky O'Rourke, at my right hand, was a master shirker.  I could even see the veins rising on his left hand next to mine, but he wasn't really doing any work.

The ship seemed to bow its head a bit, but more than that was impossible, its displacement set in stone.  And then the chain snapped violently on the foredeck, and lashed poor Jacky in the throat.  He begged me for water, lying on his back, and then perished.

When we took to the capstan the mate had us already under tops'ls aback and the spanker, and we were under way in less than a full minute.  We left the starboard bower hooked under a boulder, and we left Jacky in President Roads, in 25 fathoms, weighed down with pieces of the anchor chain so that no one would have to watch the gulls circling over him.

Monday, November 16, 2020


In the wind there were voices that were muffled and conspiratorial.

Saturday, November 14, 2020


Thanksgiving 2020

The old vows really were the best, precisely because of their impossibility.  A public profession of ultimate faith with the seeds of betrayal already stirring within.

Sympathy and tenderness two fragile flowers, buried and trampled in the first snow of that harsh winter.

I dreamed of perennials, held in an outstretched hand.  Outstretched in the end to someone who could not be me.

Friday, November 13, 2020


It is Civil War times.  I am at a party, in uniform.  I am eager to court a young lady who is there.  There is a verbal dust-up with a rival for her affections.  I hide a dead scorpion in his book before I leave.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


In an election year, the original meaning of the word is forgotten; the metaphorical meaning has buried it.

This feels like the realization of my recurring childhood dream, the one in which we are racing through the Sumner Tunnel under Boston Harbor, with the tunnel collapsing behind us, and filthy seawater cresting and crashing just a few car lengths behind, matching the Buick's pace perfectly.   We will only survive if my father continues to grip the wheel, hell-bent and bug-eyed.

Thursday, October 29, 2020


This pleasant paralysis grows by the day.  Will you come see me entirely fossilized?

Like George Herbert Walker, I'll do a parachute drop on my 80th, with one small difference --  I'll be encased in bubble wrap, unseen within a pine pallet slid off the ramp of the mighty C-130 Hercules.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Concluding Unscientific Postscript

"Priestess" rhymes with "tristesse."  Adieu priestess; bonjour tristesse.


The Drawbridge and the Moat

A long-haired hippie girl sits on a patch of summer grass, in uniform -- sandals, tattered jeans, gold bangles and multicolored tunic.

She shakes her mane out of anxiety triggered by the gaze of a boy whom she desires.  She does not make eye contact with him.  About an hour later, she shakes her mane out of anxiety triggered by the gaze of a boy whom she finds repulsive.  She does not make eye contact with him.

Introspection equal to the moment is not to be found in the heart of either boy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


I will place on your lips a balm made of Lourdes water, and dried strawberries, and lemon oil.  Strange to say, it will ease your mind, and your sleep will be sound.  It will be an unction, but not an extreme one - one that gives cause for fear.

Monday, October 19, 2020


Christopher Hitchens Said

That everyone chooses his own regrets.  My mother, for example, regretted on some level that she did not marry another man, a particular man, a very handsome man, a man whose name I knew, because he was more successful than my father.  If she had married him, no doubt she would have had other regrets.

Sunday, October 18, 2020


"If only I could molt," I said.  If I could unzip this rubbery carapace from the inside out, emerging as someone else.  Freddie Sayers.  James Spader.  Rod Laver.  Duke Ellington.

Another sort of molting.  Some hospice workers say that a puff of smoke or fog rises up from the newly-lifeless corpse.  It quickly dissipates, by all accounts that I have counted.

Saturday, October 17, 2020


The hiss of a steady overnight rain that could be mistaken for the hiss of a broken radiator.  But workable conditions on the Grand Banks this morning, with winds under 25 knots and seas under five feet.   The shift to the NNW portends worse to come this winter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


Betelgeuse and Orion's belt, fading in the Southwest at sunrise.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


Louise Gluck, Our New Nobel Laureate

She raises the question what is left when the physical scaffolding of a life begins to rot away.  Did even the poems of her youth foreshadow this?

"A taking of inventory" might be one answer.  And the inventory might not be of anything that is particularly important, but rather of memories and of data points, all of equal weight or weightlessness.  Clive James reduced his own such inventory to a poem written in anticipation of death.  It included the fact that the oil in Hitler's panzers froze solid before Moscow.

In perhaps the most poetic of all movies, Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire," Bruno Ganz' guardian angel comes upon a middle-aged man who has crashed his motorbike in a collision with a Mercedes.  He is bleeding out on the sidewalk.  He recites in German an inventory of places -- "Tristan da Cunha ... the Mississippi Delta ..."  As if it would be impossible for him to expire until the inventory was complete.


There Are Two Discrete Reasons

Reasons why one may kill oneself.  The first is that life has become simply intolerable.  That is not a choice, it's a compulsion in the moment.

The second is a co-optation, a wresting from God of the choice of time and place.  But a philosopher might say that in this case it was God's plan all along for you to choose, and also to make that particular choice.  The arrow of the Lord will find its Maker's mark.

Sunday, October 11, 2020



There is a big man in a vested suit and a bowler hat.  An old-fashioned man.  He tells me, quietly, to leave quietly, and right away.

"I'm sorry for everything I done done" I tell him, ungrammatically.  (Yet another reason to feel bottomless remorse.)  What good could wait for me outside?

Saturday, October 10, 2020


Actually Simon (Paul Simon) said, decades ago:

And maybe you'll find a love

That you discover accidentally,

That falls against you gently

As a pickpocket brushes your thigh...

Further to fly!

Effortless music from the Cameroons,

The spinning darkness of her hair,

Conversations in a crowded room going nowhere.

The Open Palm of Desire wants everything,

It wants everything.

It wants the soil as soft as summer

And the strength to push like spring.

That's what is missing in COVID times, about which no one is talking.  That threadbare possibility.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Monday, September 7, 2020

Alex Trebek in Extremis

"Sorry," he said, distracted by the pain.  "The correct response is 'What is the specific heat capacity of a potato?... What is the specific heat capacity of a potato?'"

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Sept 3

On this day in 1998, Robert V. Howe ran his hand through a band saw in his basement and crafted a joke to tell the emergency room physician when he arrived at the hospital.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Dies Irae

I was out in the Sierra Nevada.  In late middle age, I was becoming a "hanger rat," palling around with a congenial group of glider pilots of like age.  The project of the day on this day was to try to piece together the remains of a machine that had crashed.  The pilot/owner was acting as if it could be glued back together, but he may have been joking; when the pieces came out of a very large cardboard container, the word "smithereens" came to mind.  More likely, he wanted to reconstruct the crash by reconstructing the glider.  There was a lot of banter and horsing around.

Above us, the sky was busy all morning.   Suddenly a dark blue biplane appeared and did radical aerobatics right over our heads.   Its pilot was a friend of some of my pals.  He wanted to impress and scare the beans out of us.  He pulled into a hammerhead stall, then did a tail slide.   But the plane was so powerful that he was able to stop his descent and climb straight back up, then retreat to straight and level and fly off.  Then he made a second pass and pulled into another hammerhead.   This time he turned the plane 180 degs directly towards the ground, towards us.  He pulled up and roared off at about 20 feet above the glider shop.  He was so close that I could see his face and the khaki hat he had tied under his chin.

We were returning to the task at hand when a young woman appeared out of nowhere, dressed in a long robe.  We were perched near the edge of a high plateau, from which a long and steep embankment descended into the valley far below.  The young woman, overcome with fear, pointed to the west, to the far side of the valley, and said that there were tremors there.   Then she virtually threw herself down the embankment, towards the tremors, towards the source of her fears.

One of the boys happened to have a very small seismograph on his person; it was about the size of a "matchbook" toy car.   He held it up towards the valley and it registered a significant, maybe even a world-historical, event of some kind.

Now, from all compass points from zero to 180, men and women in robes came running.  They hesitated for a bit when they got to the cliff, then threw themselves down it as the woman had.  When they got to the level of the valley, they kept running towards the west, with both hands held aloft in Rapture.

By now all of my friends were gone.  I peered over the edge of the cliff, but I knew that I was not physically able to follow the hordes even if I wanted to.   I stood alone there on the heights, witness to the Day of Wrath.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Where in the Standard Industrial Classification Manual?

The question I mean is where to put this new personal service industry that has arisen inevitably after COVID.  It's not prostitution after all; it's not massage.  Nor is it Qigong, the ancient Chinese art that uses hands at a short distance for healing.  The sentimentalists call it the "cuddling" profession, while the unsentimental bureaucrats call it "therapeutic entanglement."

You pay by the hour, for the privilege of lying on a bed with your therapist, entangled as you may wish, but often in the classic "spoon" position.  Pajamas are worn.  Quick testing virtually eliminates any possibility of spreading the disease.  Conversation is natural and generally of the sort that one might have with one's barber or hair stylist.   "How is your son's new job?" and so on.

Arousal is not permitted, rather strictly prohibited, but of course one's choices in therapist often reflect one's orientation and other physical standards of intimacy -- not just gender, but height, weight and age, often with the goal of ruling out certain sorts with respect to whom arousal will be all but guaranteed!  On the other hand, like a masseur or masseuse, the therapist has pledged, in effect, to accept all comers who come with the right spirit, regardless of body structure.  It is all, you might say, "antiseptic," anti-toxic.

And yet people sometimes reach such a level of rapport with their hair stylist that the relationship blossoms, reciprocally, and the wallet must be put away.  Thus the tradition or convention arose in therapeutic entanglement, over time, that once a year only, on Valentine's Day, the Big Ask may be articulated, in the form of one of those little pink hearts, laid on the counter after the February 14 session, carrying the words "Will you be my valentine?"  Many awkward aftermaths follow, and many professional relationships forever broken, but also sometimes love follows, in a social environment in which other paths from "here" to "there" have been blocked, semi-permanently and hopelessly.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Aug 31

When I awoke at 4AM, I thought that the bedroom windows had been shut.  They were open; the crickets were just suppressed for the first time this summer by the cold.

In my dream I was back in Ireland, all but imprisoned in a miniature pub -- one built on the scale of the munchkins from Oz.   There was a single booth, and a cubby hole with storage leading to a tiny bath.   It was an act of contortion to pass from one to the other.

I sat, alone, at the booth, admiring a white grease board with the offerings of the day listed on it in orange cursive.  It pleased me that they were ad hoc and that they had been set out with a personal touch, but not a word on the board could be read; the handwriting was indecipherable.

My solitude was broken only when a beautiful young girl with a helmet of black hair popped her head in, smiled, and then retreated without a word.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Final Things

Yes, the days of your life have been numbered, from the first one.  Queequeg saw this -- he rolled his die upon the deck of Pequod and the die foretold his fate, notwithstanding the fact that Ahab had a choice not to pursue the White Whale to his death.  Les Jeux Sont Faits.  The paradox of free will and determinism.

Everything that can be numbered, is numbered, in the Great Book maintained by the Lord.  The number of toasted marshmallows that you have been fated to eat in your lifetime.   I see here that the one you ate on July 6, at a clandestine Independence Day party in Acushnet, sitting with your grandson little Sheperd and his two friends, was your last and final.   You will never have that particular, savory carnal experience again.  The circle draws closer as it must.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Aug 22 plus 180

O'er the fields we go.
Laughing all the way --
Ha!  Ha!  Ha!

With our masks on still, it goes without saying.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Aug 19

I am no scholar of the bible.  I know that there is one book that some have called "erotic."   But to the modern eye and ear it seems comical -- "Her breasts were like two young roes that are twins."  Hubba hubba.

In my dream though, there was another book.   Not erotic, but teeming with what might be called romantic poetry.   In my dream my beloved sat at my left side.  I read the book closely, both in terms of physical proximity and rabbinical seriousness.   With my left forefinger, I traced out for my beloved the passages that were most magical.   This was not a joyful exercise, but the ritual rather an anchor in a storm of sorts, a necessity for our survival, whether separate or apart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Aug 12

I'm haunted by the cruelty of the long green mantis.  I want to punish the mantis for its cruelty, but in the end that would not reduce the Great Quantum of Cruelty in the world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Aug 11

Cultural appropriation I know.  But what if God commanded you in earnest to excavate the experience of an old woman of Andalusia, on a Sunday afternoon, in the spring of 1960?

She will walk slowly down the stone steps.   Her neighbor's donkey will be tethered at the gate.  She will smell the bull ring before she turns the corner and sees it.

But first the black mantilla.  The comfort of the familiar.    It is light enough to lift in the breeze, but its cultural weight is immense.  She was displaced during the war, but she carried it with her on a handcart.

The mantilla and indeed all of her trappings create an air around her of claustrophobia, but it is misleading in the extreme.   In her mind she roams free; she surveys the entire scene, from as far away as the seacoast, with the eye of an osprey.  Her voice is known to be gravelly.  When it is heard, the people fear that something prophetic and dire may be said.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Aug 9

Let us pledge to follow the tentacles of moral responsibility wherever they may lead.

Wait.   On second thought, why don't you pledge to follow the tentacles of moral responsibility wherever they may lead.  When you get there, give me a call and let me know how you made out.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Aug 8

In Disney's post-COVID remake of "Snow White," the seven dwarves will have been reduced to three by illness, and the survivors will have been renamed "Nasty," "Brutish" and "Short."

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Aug 4

"The sea exhaled by droppes will in continuance be drie."

--Thomas Nashe

Wednesday, July 29, 2020


"Life is a humorous situation, but it is not mocking us."

-- Chogyam Trungpa

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

In Camera, In Perpetuity

A "famously obscure" philosopher once said that anything that can be said can be said clearly.

His funeral was a simple affair.  His remains were elsewhere.  Its centerpiece was a set of ten nesting boxes.   The largest box was the size of a steamer trunk, the smallest of a lady's jewelry box of the 19th century.

Each box had a padlock of corresponding size, but, by a feat of forgery, a single key could open them all.

All but the smallest box was locked.  The smallest box held the last remaining such key.  The nine others were melted in the same forge in which they were cast, into an image in miniature of the philosopher's family crest, in bas relief in the manner of Saint-Gaudens.

The crest resides with him in perpetuity.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Lullaby of Lost Loves Foretold ("Ashes")

Meeting is such sweet sorrow,
For one day we may have to part.
Hush, don't you make a sound!
(You're gonna let me down.)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Perfecting the "Spin and Roll"

In the old movie and TV Westerns, the guns were always blazing.  One wonders how all of those .45 calibre bullets made the trek from the armories of Springfield to holsters in Wichita and Deadwood and Abilene, Texas.

You knew right away who was going to "get it."   The drunk who cheated at cards in the saloon.  The cattle rustler.    The two guys hiding behind a rock by the trail, ready to ambush the buckboard carrying our hero and his sweetheart out to a picnic church supper on the river bank.  Anyone who pistol-whipped our perennial sidekick Gabby Hayes.    And all of the desperadoes who rode into town together yesterday morning, grinning and spitting into the dusty street.

The six-gun was king, only on the rare occasion bested when raw fury and chivalry and ingenuity happened to coalesce, as in Woody Guthrie's all-but-forgotten tale of the rise of Pretty Boy Floyd,

.... On a Saturday afternoon
His wife beside him in a wagon
And into town they rode.
The deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude
Using vulgar words of language
And his wife she overheard!

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain
And the deputy grabbed his gun
And in the fight that followed
He lay that deputy down!

But on the screen, not in the vinyl grooves of the dustbowl days, not one of the bad guys ever was shot in the face, nor ever were his intestines splayed all over the street.  Once in a while a bad or a good guy might get "winged" in the arm and have to wear a simple white sling until intermission, but no one, 20 years after the great battles of the Civil War, ever got gangrene; shot guns were sawed off but the wings never were!

And so the rise of the choreography of the stunt man and the body double, showing exactly how it was to take a bullet and get killed.   The bullet found its way to your vitals immediately.    You had only time to spin 270 degrees and roll to the ground, stone cold dead.  (If you were on a horse, you might tick tock a little in the saddle it's true before falling off and rolling to the ground, stone cold dead.)

Soon I will take my own bespoke slug in the torso, likewise off center as is fitting and just, and that final pirouette will be my last chance to show any elegance, any grace at all, before the posse puts me under.

"The Sweep of History"

It's not the sweep of some field marshal's glasses over the broad battleground this time.  It's more like the forearm of a deity, both angry and bored, wiping the entire chess board clean.  Indeed, the god that we have made in our own image and likeness is not the Great Actor here; He may instead be one of the fallen pieces.

Friday, July 17, 2020

July 17

2:40AM is taking on an almost mystical significance.  A flashback to daily Mass at Byron and Horace Streets in East Boston.  A dim little chapel.   Brother Dennis Cox, S.D.B., supplies the spare musical accompaniment in a pure and confident voice, his bargain-basement organ sounding like a plastic harmonium:

Oh taste, and see that the Lord is good!
Happy the man who places hope in Him.

Then a gentle, comforting, sleep-inducing rain.  But in time it builds to a Paraguayan rainy season crescendo, hostile and insistent.  I fall back to sleep nonetheless and awaken finally unrested.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

July 14

Bad dreams, and a world weariness centered precisely in the peritoneum, an itch that cannot be scratched, an acid burn in a hidden place.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Bible Reconsidered

With the players on the stage, up to and including Jesus, taking on relative unimportance.

Three things of real importance.   (I might have said three "words," but one of the things is the word "Word" itself, so that would have the snake biting its tail.)

In order of time, the Word, and then the Light, and then the Garden.  In the Beginning was the Word, the Vibration.   And the Word was God.  And God let there be Light, and the Light shone in the Darkness, and the Darkness grasped It not.

Adam and Eve found their paradise not in a gold-walled cave, nor in a castle on the mountaintop, nor in a cabin on the shores of Lake Tahoe.   They found it in a Garden teeming with life of all kinds -- bacterial, fungal, grub-like, deciduous, reptilian, mammalian ..., and all to a greater or lesser extent sapiens.

That life of all sorts, including yours and mine, is One, it emanates from the Vibration, and it resolves into the Light.  That is the hidden story, one that may be laid comfortably over any Buddhist cosmology like a transparency in an old medical text.  And the rest?  It's just folk and fairy tale.

Monday, July 6, 2020

July 6, 2020, the First Wholly Theoretical National Holiday

All days having blended into one, and the country having proclaimed itself unworthy of celebration.

My dreams in the night were full of violence and terrorism, in a small Islamic country.   In one I ran towards my home in a posher section of the capital, only to be beaten repeatedly over the head into unconsciousness.   In another, a boy of seven or eight stood at an intersection with an AR-15, gleefully taking in a cornucopia of tempting targets, including me.   But in a third, I had the charge of a female toddler, not my daughter.  By mistake I placed her on the shoulders of a strange man who was watching a football match.  She enthralled him with precocious conversation, as if I were a ventriloquist and she my dummy.

Friday, July 3, 2020


I want to awaken one of these days to find myself transformed, not into the giant roach of Kafka's signature nightmare, but into Robert Goulet, a little past his prime, entering stage right to the opening strains of "Ohhhhhhhhk!-la-ho-ma where the blah blah blah blah blah blah blah! …"  Brimming with exuberance and energy and basking in the crowd's adoration that is.  Timing is everything.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Several Cries of Covid

Le cri de coeur.
Le cri de Cormac (dystopia).
Le cri de cordite (civil war).
Le cri des co-morbidites.

Monday, June 29, 2020

June 29

The rains linger after last night's Rolling Thunder Review.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

June 28

I walk in the footsteps of the ant -- the ant who must forage to survive.   In the darkness, in my kitchen cabinet, he finds the top edge of a water glass and perches on it.  He makes a full circle, at which point his tiny skull server instructs him to stop, recognizing that he has been here before.   He must consider an alternative path.  But there is none, and he marches forward, endlessly, until his death by dessication.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

June 11

I am the last living speaker of a dying language, one that once was in wide circulation.  Now it dies with me.

Friday, June 5, 2020

The King of Bohemia

Your eyes seem from a different face.
They've seen that much, that soon.
Your cheek too cold --
Too pale to shine,
Like an old, and waning moon.

And there is no peace, 
No true release,
No secret place to crawl.
And there is no rest
For the ones God blessed
And He blessed
You best of all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Saturday, May 30, 2020

May 30

A hard rain punctuated the Hour of the Wolf last night.
And how many dreams have been dashed?

Friday, May 29, 2020

Oh Go Ahead; Judge

"A Farewell to Arms"
"The Book of Disquiet"
"The Man Without Qualities"
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being"
"20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea"
"The Grapes of Wrath"
"Pale Fire"
"Two Years Before the Mast"
"The Possessed"
"Searching for Lost Time"
"Under the Volcano"
"The Wretched of the Earth"
"The Wine-Dark Sea"
"One Hundred Years of Solitude"
"Concluding Unscientific Postscript"
"The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

May 26

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.

Monday, May 25, 2020

May 25

We are betrayed by our figures of speech.   I will be in touch.   The Midas Touch.  He is out of touch with reality.  I was touched by her generosity.  "Touch of Evil."  Touche! (from the French martial arts).

Friday, May 15, 2020

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Cardinal Virtues; the Cardinal Sins

In Catholicism, they are faith, hope and charity -- or "love."  ("And of these three, the greatest is love.")

These virtues are so central, in fact, that it has been common in the past to name little girls for them.   "Hope" still remains, by this measure, but "Charity" largely relegated to Amish country.  "Faith" clings by her fingernails.   Was it not Faith, though, who danced with one of the big black guys at the roadhouse rocked by Otis Day and the Knights in "Animal House"?   Faith whom our hero told that his girlfriend had just died, so as more likely to get her to unhook her bra? (It worked.)

And in the Russian Orthodox Church as well.   The three ever-virtuous girls are "Vera," "Nadezhda" and "Lyubov."  Вера, Надежда и Любовь. ("But the greatest of these is Lyubov.")

It is odd that these virtues are mere dispositions.   And it follows that each obverse disposition is a great sin.  They are not, truth be told, the classic, "Seven Deadly" sins, but they are great sins nonetheless.

It's easy to see why the faithless and the hateful should be excluded from Heaven.   It is less obvious why those without hope should be denied entrance.  Does it not make the failure to embrace hope a self-fulfilling prophesy?  And are there no circumstances in the world that justify the abandonment of hope, otherwise, I mean, than the circumstance of passing through Milton's Gates of Hell themselves?

In Catholicism, sin begets guilt.  So those without hope do not only bear the burden of hopelessness; they bear the burden of a deep guilt about their hopelessness as well.    And, it must be said, a sort of meta-guilt -- a guilt about feeling guilty.  And so on, ad infinitum, unless and until there is belief in an Eternal Life, a life sitting not exactly at the Right Hand of the Father, but in the cheap seats, the bleachers, with nothing to do but to keep on hoping, for a modest, a subtle change of scenery if for nothing else.

Friday, May 8, 2020

There is an Old Expression

… that is, "to avoid some one, or some thing, 'like the plague.'"

Monday, April 27, 2020

Summon it Up

Closing many doors
Closing many doors
To keep the germs from getting out
To keep the germs from getting in

So that my emotional arrows
Will all fall short of their mark
Fall short of their mark

To keep the milk of human kindness
To keep the milk of human kindness
From getting in
From getting in
From getting in
From getting in

Sunday, April 26, 2020

April 26

After 1000 years of almost unrelenting tragedy, how did the Russians manage to salvage their joie de vivre?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

April 25

There'll be the breaking of the ancient Western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road

And the white man dancing...

You'll see your woman hanging upside down
Her features covered by her fallen gown
And all the lousy little poets
Coming round
Tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson
And the white man dancin'

Friday, April 24, 2020

April 24

Speak, Boris, speak!

If I had the courage, and the money, and the skill, now would be a good time to kiss the crests of the Andes in a glider.   The path forward would be pocked with peril, but at least there would be a path forward, and most likely a gentle touchdown spot in the offing.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

April 23

Si je t'aime, prends garde a toi.
Si tu m'aimes, prends garde a toi.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

April 22

Kim Jong Un reported to be recuperating from emergency heart surgery.   Where is that MyPillow guy when you need him?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

April 21

The cruise ship and its offspring, including the Penobscot windjammer.   The nail salon.  The Irish pub.   The health club and the comedy club.  The roller coaster.  The convention center, holding a convention as opposed to holding overflow medical equipment.  Tell your kids that they will be able to read about them in books.

Monday, April 20, 2020

April 20

Maybe a good time to remind ourselves that the value of money rests entirely upon consensus and convention.  If the consensus falls apart...

Sunday, April 19, 2020

April 19

It's a still-life watercolor of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtain lace
And shadows wash the room.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

April 18

We found a cowskull once; we thought it was
From one of the asses in the Bible, for the sun
Shone into the holes through which it had seen
Earth as an endless belt carrying gravel.

Friday, April 17, 2020

April 17

"There's a kind of hush all over the world tonight."  

-- Vinny and the Ventilators

Thursday, April 16, 2020

April 16

The pope, washing the feet of the poor, in latex gloves, color coded to the liturgical calendar.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

April 15

The birds awaken now at 4AM.

Is there a way to quantify all human, physical contact?  (I mean everything from a handshake to a high five to a rugby scrum to sexual congress.)  What then is the deficit in human contact that we have suffered globally over the last four weeks?  And if that number is X, what will it be on New Years Eve, 2021?

The deficit will not be made up.  "It deepens, like a coastal shelf."  Will there be a cost to the collective human psyche?  Is this the global catastrophe that Carl Jung foresaw, vividly, before his death?

Monday, April 13, 2020

April 13

The Great Boston Molasses Disaster of the early 20th century.  Some were unable to outrun the wall of molasses.  I no doubt would have been among them.  A sticky situation it would have been.  No one, back then, accused the molasses of invidious discrimination.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

April 12, Easter Sunday

The voice of the Queen is remarkably strong; her words are chosen with royal simplicity, royal precision.

The fingers, of God and Man, over the Sistine Chapel, never to touch.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

April 11

Long, unbroken periods in sensory deprivation chambers flood the mind with all manner of phantasmogorica.  I saw butterflies with talons, and babies with the teeth of dogs.

Friday, April 10, 2020

April 10

Sam, the Sam in "Casablanca" I mean, was wrong about a kiss.  It's not just a kiss.  It satisfies an impulse, a physical and emotional urge, for sure.  But it's also and most importantly a gesture in and of itself -- a sign.   "The Kiss of Death."

When next we meet, you will be wearing the uniform of The Bandit Princess!  We shall not embrace.  We won't even acknowledge our longing to embrace, for we won't be equipped to give it expression.  It will be as if a prison visit, with three inches of hostile plexiglas between us.  

And this when the crisis is past.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

April 8

Chinese school has now begun.
No more laughing, no more fun!
If you show your teeth or tongue
You must pay a forfeit.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

April 7

Reach out your hand
If your cup be empty.
If your cup is full, may it be again.
Let it be known -
There is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men.

Monday, April 6, 2020

April 6

From out of the city the dying groan,
And the soul of the wounded cries for help;
Yet God pays no attention to their prayer.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Saturday, April 4, 2020

April 4

If we need to free up space in the Big Dictionary for the now ubiquitous word -- "coronavirus" -- we can excise one of equal size that we won't need anymore -- "insouciance."

Thursday, April 2, 2020

April 2

A mighty fortress is our God
His power all prevailing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April 1

The collection of nightsoil on the usual, systematic basis having been determined to be too dangerous in current conditions, the government of North Korea has begun to use human bodies as fertilizer.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 31

We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

March 28

We are frozen in amber now, like scarabs from prehistory.   From this frozen place I see all of the cultural layers of my long life.  And "cultural" for me inevitably means musical.  They begin at late doo-wop/R&B -- He's a Rebel -- and end at Amy Winehouse -- Back to Black.

But there are just too many layers.   Too many.